Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) called on the Vietnamese government today to release cyberdissident Pham Hong Son, who has been detained in secret for the past four months after posting material about democracy on the Internet.
"He has simply expressed peacefully his attachment to democratic values," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to public security minister Lt. Gen. Le Minh Huong. "We and his family are very worried about his plight."
The organisation has also lobbied the French government, as well as the Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie, about Dr Pham, who was arrested in Hanoi in March for having posted on the Internet a translation of an article entitled "What Democracy is About," taken from the website of the US embassy in Vietnam.
Since his arrest was officially confirmed on 8 April, Pham, who is marketing director of a pharmaceutical company, has not been allowed visits from his wife, his two sons or his lawyer and is being held in a secret place. The interior ministry is legally obliged to decide on 27 July whether to hold him for another four months or release him.
Reporters Without Borders also asked the authorities why they had arrested Nguyen Vu Binh, a journalist formally with the official magazine Tap Chi Cong San, who was detained on 22 July. The government is thought to have objected to his signing, along with 16 other dissidents, of an open letter to the authorities calling for reforms and the release of political prisoners. He was interrogated by police two days before being arrested. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh said he had not been "formally arrested".
The journalist worked for 10 years for Tap Chi Cong San before being sacked in January last year for trying to set up an independent political party. He had since written articles criticising the government and calling for political reforms.
"If, as we fear, he is imprisoned for what he has written, we ask you to do everything you can to see that he is released as soon as possible," said Ménard in his letter to the minister.
Reporters Without Borders notes that two other cyberdissidents, Le Chi Quang and Tran Khue, are also in prison for having posted criticism of the government on the Internet. Le Chi Quang, a lawyer and computer teacher, was arrested on 21 February at a Hanoi cybercafé and imprisoned in Camp B14 in the northern province of Ha Dong. Tran Khue was put under house arrest on 10 March after posting on the Internet a letter he had written to Chinese President Jiang Zemin on the eve of his official visit to Vietnam.